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  1. Inside the '007 The Man With The Red Tattoo Museum'

    The “007 The Man With the Red Tattoo Museum” is located at 2310 Miyanoura, Naoshima (one minute from Myanoura Bay). For more information, contact the International Affairs Division, Kagawa Prefectural Government, Tel: 087-832-3026, Fax 087-837-4289.

    Written by Raymond Benson

    Raymond Benson

    In April of 2001, I took a trip to Japan with my friend James McMahon so that I could research my sixth and final James Bond novel, The Man With the Red Tattoo. The book was eventually published in June 2002 in the UK and US, and in Japan in 2003.

    One of the primary locations in the novel was Naoshima Island, a small island in the Inland Sea, in the middle of Japan. Naoshima is mostly known as a center for modern art, being the location of the elite Benesse House Art Museum, which is also a luxury hotel. Guests can actually stay in the hotel, walk out of their rooms, and find themselves in a museum that houses works by artists such as Jackson Pollock, David Hockney, Andy Warhol, and many others from around the world. I used this museum as the location for the climax of the novel.

    Dragon

    The people and government of Naoshima were so pleased and proud to be in a James Bond novel that they decided to erect a permanent museum commemorating the book and James Bond in general (the Japanese have always been big fans of 007). They are also very keen in attempting to persuade EON Productions to film the book and have begun a nationwide campaign to gather signatures for a petition to present to the filmmakers. And while I am skeptical of their success in the filmmaking solicitation, I am pleased and proud to be a part of the museum, which celebrates all aspects of James Bond.

    Thus, in 2004, the government of Kagawa Prefecture (a prefecture is the equivalent of a state in the USA) set about gaining permission for the use of the book’s title and finding volunteers to work on the building (it was a not-for-profit endeavor). Students from local art schools contributed exhibits. I contributed photographs from my research trip, notes, manuscript pages, and advice. Noted Japanese fans and experts helped to contribute as well.

    On July 24, 2005, the museum opened to the public. My wife Randi and I were flown to Japan to attend as guests of Kagawa Prefectural Government.

    It’s a thirteen and a half hour plane ride from Chicago to Osaka, Japan. We left on Friday and arrived in Osaka on time approximately 4:00pm on Saturday afternoon (there’s a fourteen hour time difference). By the time a bus delivered us to Takamatsu, there was just enough time for an elegant dinner with the generous people from Kagawa Prefecture.

    The Big Day, July 24

    After a nice buffet breakfast of Japanese and/or Western food at our hotel in Takamatsu, Randi and I were met by Kagawa Prefecture representatives Nobu Akaguma and Samuel Rosen, the latter being our official interpreter for the day.

    The Man With The Red Tattoo Museum

    Nobu and Samuel took us to the ferry, which departed for Naoshima Island at mid-morning. We arrived 50 minutes later and were taken in a private car to Benesse House. I had stayed at Benesse House in 2001, and it’s an incredible experience—it’s one of the most unique hotels in the world, seeing that it’s also an exclusive art museum.

    After checking in—our fabulous room had a terrace and spectacular view of the Inland Sea—Samuel and Nobu accompanied us through the Art Museum. I had seen it before, of course, but Randi hadn’t. This very unique building inspired me to use it as the setting in my novel because of its Bond-like qualities—it looks like something Bond designer Ken Adam would create. (It was actually designed by famed Japanese architect Tadao Ando.)

    We had a quick Japanese lunch in the café and finished just in time to get down to Naoshima Town to the new 007 museum. I was scheduled to do a press conference before the opening ceremony.

    The Man With The Red Tattoo Museum

    I should state here that it was an extremely hot and humid day. After a minute outside, the sweat was literally pouring off. The museum’s air conditioning was on but wasn’t very effective in that heat. So it was very hot, especially with all the people inside.

    Randi and I had a chance to see the museum for about five minutes before my press conference. There was one exhibit that featured pictures of our family, including our dog Spike! (Bizarre!) Other exhibits included the gigantic heart that is featured in the book—the “Kappa” character hides inside of it so that he can sneak out at night. There was memorabilia from the movies—posters, toys, photos; and author displays—Ian Fleming, Kingsley Amis, John Gardner, and me; and artworks by students.

    The press conference began and about twenty members of Japanese media descended upon me—television, radio, and newspaper. Samuel translated.

    We were then walked across the street to Naoshima City Hall, where the opening ceremony was to be held. We had to take our shoes off and wear funny green slippers. There were about 60 people there, including dignitaries from Kagawa Prefecture and Naoshima Town. Randi and I were given front row seats and were heartily welcomed by the M.C.

    First up was the President of the 007 Museum Management Committee, Takeshige Matsuda. They all spoke in Japanese (Samuel translating in our ears). Second was the Governor of Kagawa Prefecture himself, Takeki Manabe. Next was Yasunori Matsumoto, the Vice Chairman of Kagawa Prefecture Assembly. The mayor of Naoshima Town, Takao Hamada, followed him.

    All the speeches were virtually the same—how pleased they are to have Naoshima in the Bond novel, how important it will be for tourism and their place in Japan, and how they will work hard to see that a film is made from the book.

    The Man With The Red Tattoo Museum

    Mr. Matsuda then presented Certificates of Achievement to various people involved with the museum. I was the first to receive a certificate. Lots of bowing, applauding, cheers. Standing ovation. Very humbling.

    Presentation of certificates went on for another twenty minutes or so. Finally, it was time to leave City Hall and go back to the museum for the ribbon cutting.

    Randi and I joined the other officials, donning white gloves and holding golden scissors, as another speech was made and the museum was blessed. Then we cut the ribbon and everyone went into the museum. Again, the media blindsided me and I spent most of the time talking to journalists.

    Besides my friend Makoto Wakamatsu, two other Bond fan friends came to the ceremony—Yoshi Nakayama, who had helped me a lot during my 2001 research trip, and Hiroki Takeda, whom I had met on that same trip. A woman who also had given me assistance on the trip, Yoshiko Kitanishi, also came from Tokyo. And my old friend Take Tsukamoto, formerly head of the Japan National Tourist Organization—Chicago Branch—came from Tokyo as well. Take Tsukamoto had been instrumental in arranging the original research trip.

    We had a couple of hours after all that before the VIP Invitation Only Reception at Benesse House café. So Nobu and Samuel took us to the truly incredible Chichu Art Museum, a new “underground” annex of Benesse House Art Museum, also designed by Tadao Ando. Every room in the structure is designed to be a work of art in and of itself such that one must actually be in the room to experience what the artist intended. Photos do not do it justice. For example, the rooms by artist James Turrell all depend on natural light that comes in through specially designed windows that create effects that are impossible to describe. A room containing five exclusive Monet paintings was described by Randi as “the best presentation of Monet” that she’s ever seen.

    The Man With The Red Tattoo Museum

    At 5:00, the official reception began at Benesse House. This was attended by all the dignitaries and officials, plus my invited friends from Tokyo.

    Soichiro Fukutake is the head of Benesse Corporation, the president of Berlitz, and the head of a couple of other companies. I had met him and his wife Reiko on my last trip. He had graciously provided the reception space and the food from his hotel restaurant. Mr. Fukutake is something of a “Richard Branson of Japan”, in that he is fabulously wealthy, adventurous, and has a passion for the arts. During the reception, he took us down to the beach to show us his new toys—“Flying Inflatable Boats.” They look like rubber rafts, only they have engines, propellers, and wings. They can take off from and land in the water.

    The food at the reception was a buffet of all kinds of Japanese food and some Western food. I then had a chance to visit with my friends and talk to virtually everyone who had come (with Samuel translating). I even had a nice talk with the Japanese editor from Hayakawa Publishing, the firm that publishes my Bond books. Apparently “High Time to Kill” is coming out this fall in Japan.

    There’s also an outdoor hot tub on the Benesse House property, down by the beach. Guests of Benesse House can reserve an hour of its use. Mr. Fukutake reserved 9pm-10pm for Randi and me, provided us with swimsuits and a flashlight, and off we went at the appointed time. It was a great capper for an event-filled day.

    Before heading back for Chicago on Monday, we had planned to take a brief trip to see Himeji Castle. This is an old samurai castle halfway between the Naoshima area and Osaka. It was used as a location for the 1967 Bond movie “You Only Live Twice” (where Bond trains to be a ninja). My friends Yoshi, Makoto, and Hiroki planned to take us, but then Samuel and Eiji Taniguchi from Kagawa Prefecture joined us.

    We boarded the ferry and the seven of us went on our way. Unfortunately the ferry was a few minutes delayed, so we missed our train at Uno, where we were to catch the train to Okayama. Because of this, there was a domino effect in missing connections. Thus, Eiji did some backpedaling and found alternate routes—but it would still cut down on our time at Himeji Castle. Oh well. We went for it anyway and it was still a fun day.

    We had time for lunch in Okayama train station, and then went on to Himeji. Because we had to be at the airport by 4:00pm, we only had a little less than an hour to spend at the castle. It was probably all we could have taken because it was so hot outside and it was very strenuous to walk up and down the stairs and hills of the castle. Still, it was great fun to pretend to be Bond extras and ninjas.

    We were bathed in sweat by the time we returned to the train station. We said goodbye to Yoshi and Makoto there, since they had to go back to Tokyo. Hiroki, Eiji, and Samuel accompanied us all the way to Osaka airport, where we said goodbye.

    We packed in more in those 2-1/2 days than we could have done in a week. It was well worth the madness of taking a “long weekend” in Japan. And quite an honor to have a museum inspired by my work.

    Thank you Kagawa Prefecture and Naoshima Town!

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    Guest writer @ 2005-07-26
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